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MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday tightened media conditions for election coverage in Russia, ahead of a March 2024 presidential vote expected to prolong his rule until 2030.

Moscow has hugely cracked down on media freedom since launching its Ukraine offensive in February last year.

Putin – in power since 2000 – has not yet announced he will run for a fifth term, but the Kremlin has said his power is unrivalled.

According to a government decree, journalists who are not employed by media outlets registered with the authorities will be barred from taking part in electoral commission meetings.

Putin may soon announce run in Russia’s 2024 election: Kommersant

Only reporters who “have the right in accordance with federal law” to work will be able to take photographs and videos inside polling stations, the decree said.

The measures thereby bar bloggers and reporters working for exiled independent media from accessing voting stations.

The vast majority of Russian independent media fled the country last year, with authorities launching a massive crackdown on dissent and passing strict censorship laws around the conflict in Ukraine.

But some exiled media outlets still have reporters working in Russia and regional outlets have also been able to continue some independent reporting.

The decree is also meant to cover areas of Ukraine that Russia claims to have annexed.

According to Russian law, the date of the first round of the presidential election – which should be held in March 2024 – is due to be announced by mid-December.

Putin held a referendum in 2020 to amend the constitution allowing him to serve two more terms, meaning he could stay in power until 2036 – when he would be 84 years old.

The constitution had previously required him to step down after his current six-year term expires in 2024.

Russia only allows positive coverage of the longtime leader and most of his political opponents are in exile or prison.

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